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Down and Out in Albany, Part VII by Vegard


Part VII

Bernie came to see him after her Dad left, and they’d sat and talked for a few hours, before her Mom called her in.
Not wanting to leave, she’d stood by the door quite a while, while they still talked, and Mary had called again, more impatient this time.
Giving Danny a quick kiss, she reluctantly walked down the stairs.

What a day! Winning his first game didn’t seem to matter one bit to Danny any more. He was seeing Bernie! Beautiful Bernadette Reilly was his girlfriend! Sitting on the couch, he sat there grinning from ear to ear.
He needed to call home. Thoughts of his sister weren’t the most pressing now, getting his birth certificate was. He needed that licence to drive!

Next morning he walked up to the house, stopping by the door. What do you say to people once you start dating their daughter and sister?
His thoughts were interrupted by Missis Reilly opening the door, telling him the others were in the kitchen, and to come join them. She seemed to struggle not to laugh.
Her husband was the same, and both Danny and Bernie blushed as Danny was offered the chair next to her. Obviously, the Reilly’s felt amused at the young couple’s awkwardness.
Mike was harder to read. He seemed subdued, and not his usual cheerful self. But Danny figured he’d come around.

Danny called his brother later that same day, and after telling how things were with Mary-Ann and himself, and ensuring about a dozen times that he would help her as soon as he could, he asked Barry to send his birth certificate.
"How’s Ma and Pa?" he asked.
"Well, you know," Barry paused, "He drinks."
"More?"
"Nah, about the same I reckon."
"How’s Ma holdin´ up?"
"She does okay I think. She’s started workin’ down at the gas station. Works the till."
They chatted for a bit, and Danny told his brother about life in Auburn.
It felt good to talk to him, and they hung up with promises of keeping in touch.

Life went by, with football practice, a couple more games, which they won, and doing driver’s ed. He got his licence to drive a short time before Christmas, and bought a used car from Reilly. He’d wanted to give it to him, but Danny insisted on paying at least something for it.
Life was good.

About noon on boxing day Missis Reilly called for him to come in the house, it was a call for him. Running down the steps two at the time from his loft, he hurried over to the house.
It was Mary-Ann.
"Hey!" he said.
"Can you come?" Her voice was curt. Almost hard.
"Sure! What’s the address?"
He jotted it down, and was about to ask how she was, when she said, "Gotta go. See’ya, okay?" And she hung up.
"Is she in a bad way?" Missis Reilly asked from the doorway.
"She said she was okay. And she wasn´t crying like she was the last time. But I don´t know really."
"Did she give you the address this time?"
He nodded.
"Go get her!" Mary told him.
"Here?" he asked.
"Yes. She can stay here as long as she likes!"

Daniel had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand he knew he had to go help her. But, he really didn´t want her to come and stay with the Reilly´s.
He enjoyed his life with them, especially now he was going out with Bernie. And even though it made him feel really guilty, he didn´t want to share. It was as simple as that.
He had had luck he supposed, and met some really nice people. But he couldn´t help feel he´d sort of earned it to, through hard work, and by making the right choices.

But off course, it all came back to this, he had to.
Part of him was embarrassed about having to go get his sister, and he didn´t want to involve the Reilly´s more than he had to.
Bill! He thought. Bill would help if he asked.

Danny enjoyed the train ride a lot more this time. Bill had a deck of cards with him, and the two boys played with two sisters who were travelling with their parents back to New York after having spent the holidays with Grandparents.
Bill was more than a little interested in the older of the two, and they ended up exchanging phone numbers before they parted at Penn Station.

After working their way through the Subway system, they finally stood in front of the door and Danny rang the bell. They waited, and finally Steve came and opened.
Looking bewildered at the sight of two tall high-school kids with shaved heads outside his door. They really did look quite intimidating, broad shouldered, and fierce looking, in their leather jackets.
Mary-Ann peered around the corner in the hallway.
"Danny? Is that you?" she asked, as the two boys just pushed past Steve.
She came over and hugged him, then held him at arms length to study him.
"Look at you!" she said, "You´re all grown!"

Mary-Ann looked tired. Older somehow, and not in a good way. She was thinner than he remembered her, with dark pouches under her eyes.

Hearing the greetings by the door, Paul came out of the bathroom, and almost sneared when he saw Danny.
"Did they put you back in the nut-house?"
"What the f*** are you talking about?"
"Your hair dimwit! It´s only nut-houses and the Army they shave guys heads, and you´re too dumb to be in the Army."
Slights on his intelligence? Really?
"Is that the best you can do?" Danny asked. Full of contempt.
Danny was almost bored with Paul already.
"Do you want me to beat him up?" he asked, turned to his sister.
She shook her head, casting a slightly alarmed look at Paul, then staring at her little brother. He looked so grown, and confident. Standing there, glaring, at Paul, she hardly recognized him. He really didn’t look like someone you wanted to mess with.
"You shaved your head?" she said, stating the obvious.
"Yeah. Almost everyone on the team did."
Danny was still glaring at Paul, who was standing there with an annoying smirk on his face.
"Mary-Ann, you´re not stayin´ with this asshole!"
"Who’s to stop her?" Paul sneared, "You?"
Danny had had enough. Shoving his sister aside, he grabbed Paul by his shirt and slammed him against the wall pinning his left arm against it. Bill moved towards him as well, and grabbed Paul’s right arm in a vice.
"Danny!" Mary-Ann screamed at him, trying to drag him away.
"Danny! You let him go. You hear?"
Her brother looked at her, quite calmly, contemplating whether he should let go or not. Paul still had that annoying smirk on his face, but looked somewhat pathetic as well, pinned against the wall.
Danny released him, and turned to his sister.
"Mary-Ann, you need to get your act together! You can´t let him treat you like that, and you´re either coming with me. Or you go back home! They all want you to come back!"
"How do you know?"
"I talked to Barry, and he says Ma and Pa want you to come home!"

Mary-Ann was quiet for a bit, then said, "I’ll just wrap things up here, and I’ll come up to you in Albanny first, okay?"
Danny nodded, looking at Paul, who was still strangely subdued. Probably because Bill stood about a foot away from him, and looked ready to have a go at him.

After the boys left Paul regained his swagger though.
"So, you think you’re just gonna leave? Just like that?"
"Yeah!" Mary-Ann looked defiantly back at him. Wondering if he was going to hit her again. And thinking how sweet it would be to watch Danny beat the crap out of him for it, if he did.
Paul seemed to notice a new confidence in her that he didn’t like much. Snearing at her he said, "No you won´t!"
"Why not?"
"You owe me baby-girl! You owe me a lot!"
"What?"
"You´ve been living off of me since your retard brother left, and you can´t leave ´till you´ve payed me back!"
She was shocked. "How?" she managed again.
Grinning, he answered, "I´ll think of something!"
Mary-Ann didn’t know what to do, or say, so didn’t say anything. But she kept replaying the encounter between Danny and Paul in her mind. Almost grinning at how Paul had had to back down when Danny had pushed him up against the wall. And how his friend Bill had steared him down after.

She went to bed first, and pretended to be sleeping when Paul came in later, listening to him mumble about lowlives and white trash. She stayed awake listening to him fall asleep, and paid close attention to his breathing. Noticing when he drifted in to heavy sleep.
Getting up real quiet, she packed her things in her bag, and carried it out to the door.
Steve and two others were sleeping in the living room, and from the looks of it, they weren´t waking up any time soon.
Good! That would make the rest of her plan work, without interruption.
Rummaging carefully through the kitchen drawers, she found what she was looking for, and made her way back to Paul, who was now laying on his back, snoring. His head tilted to one side.
She lifted the hair over his forehead away from his face, and held it in her left hand, holding it as taught as she dared, without waking him up. And slowly she opened the scissors in her right hand, and moved it in, close to the scalp and closed it. It got tangled a little bit, but she managed to manouvre it to cut all the way through.
Stifling a giggle, she placed the long lock next to him on the pillow, and grabbed another handful of hair.
Feeling savage joy, she kept cutting, as close as she dared, over most of the top of his head, as well as his sideburn and over his right ear. Only a few times did he stirr, and she stopped, breathless, for him to calm down again. Waiting for his breath to regain it´s even rhythm, before continuing to cut.

Stepping back she grinned. He looked horrible. With only rough patches of hair left on top, and on the right side of his head, where the scalp shone through in areas the size of quarters, and full length, black hair, in the back, and on the left.
The pillow looked a mess to, with all the shorn hair strewn over it.
Saving the image in her mind, she admired her handywork, before turning on her heel and walking out the door.

Waking up, Paul glanced over to Mary-Ann´s side of the bed. She wasn´t there. Maybe she´d got her lazy ass out of bed early to cook him breakfast? The thought cheered him up.
Stretching, he rolled over on his left.
What was that on the pillow? In the dim light from the window, he could see masses of long, black hair all over the pillow beside him.
Terror flared inside of him. His hair!
Was it falling out?
Panick struck him like a freight train. Breathing fast, he felt his head with both hands, and felt short, uneven, hair all over the top of his head and around his right ear.
What the hell? Suddenly wide awake, he began realizing it had been cut. Relief that it wasn´t falling out gave way to rage at the nerve of that bitch, to cut his long hair off in his sleep.
Giving out almost a roar, Steve and Mandy came in, and steared in wide eyed shock at Paul, in bed, surrounded by long strands of hair. With half his head looking like a mangy dog.

Steve tried to stifle a laugh. Paul looked horrible, and realizing what had happened Steve couldn´t help feeling Paul kind of deserved it.
"That bitch!" Paul yelled, an almost hysterical note to his voice, "Look what she did!"

Damn, but he hated her!
Paul had his hat jammed as far down on his head as he could, and it was impossible to see his shorn head, but he couldn´t hide it like this. He cursed again, while studying himself in the bathroom mirror.
The hair on the left and back was too thin now without the hair from the top flowing down with it. It was just a pathetic remnant of his formerly glorious hair.
Taking the hat off, he studied his patchy scalp. It looked horrible.
Pulling the hat back on he walked out the door. Steve and Mandy were up, and tried to say something as he passed. But he was fuming, and in no mood to talk to anyone.

Walking the streets he spotted a barber-pole. He walked by, and glanced inside. There was a customer in the chair, and Paul kept walking. Trying to look casual, he hung back on the other side of the street, waiting for the customer to leave, and hoping no one else would show up.

He had his wish, and slunk inside after the elderly customer that was there had left.
The barber looked up when he heard the door opened, and welcomed Paul with a friendly smile, which was not returned.
With a serious look he asked, "May I help you?"
Paul didn´t answer at first, and the barber asked again, "How may I help you?"
Whipping the hat off his head Paul asked, "Can you fix this?"
The barbers eyes widened in surprise. "Oh my!" he said.
"Well?" Paul demanded.
"I´m afraid not young man." The barber studied Pauls badly cropped head and added, "I´m afraid there´s nothing I can do except cut it all off. At least then it will be even."
Glaring at his own reflection in the mirror, Paul gave a very stiff nod, and sat down in the chair.
Anthony Poli was a professional. He didn´t like this young man much, but he had obviously had quite a shock from having some horrible accident to his hair, and Poli was not going to judge him, based on his behavior in his shop. At least not yet.

He walked over, and began studying Paul´s head closer.
"Well?" Paul said again. Impatient and angry, at the same time as he dreaded someone coming in and seeing him like this. "Aren´t you going to start?"
"I just want to assess the damage first," Poli said.
"Well, like you said, you can´t fix it, so just get it over with!" Paul almost spat at the barber standing over him.
"As you wish!" Anthony Poli said, thinking what a thouroughly unpleasant person this was.

Checking this guys head he´d seen that very little of the hair was shorter than a quarter of an inch, and that he could in fact have managed to leave a half inch of hair for him on top, but since he had now come to the conclusion that he really didn´t like him, he would not show him much mercy.
Getting his Osters he, at first, considered using it with no guard at all, but he figured this mangy young man would probably have a tantrum, and perhaps turn violent if he did that. So, he added a number one guard, and started it up.
Moving it, quite forcefully, right over from Paul´s non-existing bangs to the crown of his head. Then a pass right next to it, and then next to that, exposing skin that was almost a bluish white under the black stubble.
After cleaning up the top, he continued shearing the right side of his head, shaving around the ear, before moving in on the left exposing the ear there, which had been hidden away for years.
Forcing the unpleasant young man´s head down towards his chest he finished off the back, leaving him completely sheared.

Paul´s dark scowl gave way to a look of horror as he watched his reflection in the mirror. His long, dark hair, gone. He hadn’t had a haircut in almost ten years, and he had great hair. Now he sat there, his scalp showing as a sickish fish-belly white through the dark stubble. His disproportionally small ears showing themselves for the first time this decade. The barber took the cape off, and Paul saw his whole frame in the mirror.
He’d made fun of the bitch’s brother yesterday for having a shaved head. But he reluctantly had to admit, Danny looked a hell of a lot better with it than he did himself.
Where Danny had looked like a fit and strong soldier, he himself looked like the mental patient he’d tried to ridicule Danny as.
With Paul’s sinuey, lankey, body, he really did look a lot better with hair.

Hiding a smirk Poli said, "There you go young man!"
Paul was fuming again as he tore a few dollars from his pocket, placed them on the counter and left.
Watching as he walked out, and jammed his hat back on, Poli shook his head, and wondered what on earth had happened to this guy.

"You did what?" Danny exclaimed. Bernie, and Missis Reilly looked up, startled, only to see Danny laughing hard at something his sister had said. The Thompson’s were sitting together in the kitchen, catching up, while the Reilly’s had withdrawn to the living room.
"Yeah!" Mary-Ann confirmed, "I cut the hair off half his head while he slept!"
"I wish I could have been there when he woke up this morning, but it probably wouldn´t have been safe you know?" she added, giving him a mischievous grin.
Getting away from Paul had done her good. She still looked tired, but she had been up all night. First waiting in the Station, and then the 3-hour train ride, before finding a phone booth to call the Reilly’s. Danny and Bernie had been to pick her up.
The "beaten" look was all gone. Replaced by a look of confidence and pride at breaking away from him.
"Wish I could have seen him!" Danny laughed.




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